Scripture: Jeremiah 23:23-29; Luke 12:49-56
Title: The Truth Hurts
**Sermons are meant to be heard, so listen along here**
By a show of hands – how many of you have ever responded to the question “how are you” with “good”
Now how many of you have ever responded with “good” when things weren’t good at all?
We have this tendency in the church, to put a gloss on our lives, to put our best foot forward, to say “I’m good” when inside we’re falling apart.
And I’m not sure why we’ve come to believe that being a Christian means everything gets better, that if we struggle somehow our faith is lacking, or if we don’t acknowledge our blessings (#blessed) we somehow aren’t faithful.
Well that’s just crap.
There. I said it.
It’s total crap.
Because life is hard.
Things still go wrong every single day.
There’s still cancer, and mental illness, and violence, and hatred and division.
It doesn’t just go away because we follow Christ. In fact, according to today’s Gospel, sometimes we are more divided than ever when Christ is breaking into our lives.
So before I go any further, I want to be so incredibly clear that having those things as a part of our lives doesn’t mean our faith is somehow less than.
Both of our readings today remind us that when the Kingdom of God breaks into the world, it’s not always peaceful and pleasant.
The final verse that we heard from Jeremiah today set up the Gospel so well: “Is not my word like fire, and a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?”
The Kingdom of God is not easy or comfortable sometimes.
Jesus, who we call the Prince of Peace, who we picture as this gentle, kind, unassuming man, is the exact opposite in today’s Gospel text.
“Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth?” He asks.
And then he lists all the ways in which the world will be divided.
Two against three and three against two.
Parent against child
Neighbor against neighbor
Republican against Democrat
Black against white
This list feels familiar.
So what is Jesus saying here?
Division is good?
That we should promote division?
That we should fight and divide ourselves even more than we’re already doing?
Jesus reminds us that the truth will set you free, but first it will probably make people mad.
Mad enough to divide and fight.
The Kingdom of God comes into the world and unseats the current powers-that-be.
And when this happens, there is ALWAYS pushback.
When Jesus says he has come to bring the Kingdom of God, we say YES – until we realize that that probably means we’re going to have to give up some things.
It means the current order of the world is going to be upset, and that does not always go over well.
What is the current order?
Power. Money. Being right at the cost of relationships.
This is the way the world works right now.
And when the Kingdom of God breaks into that, it’s not going to be sunshine and roses all the time.
Preaching professor Karoline Lewis wrote this week that
“Jesus’ words name the truth of our human truth: our leanings toward suspicion and discord, toward calling every person’s value into question, toward doubt and distrust of even those to whom we thought we were close. We assume apprehension when there could be alignment. We anticipate wariness when there could be agreement. We accept skepticism when there could be loyalty. Times of division demand that we reevaluate our assumptions, our anticipations, and accepted loyalties, so as to enter into an interrogation of our own unnamed allegiances.”
Sometimes, the truth hurts.
When we look at our divided world, what if instead of holding faster and stronger to our convictions we instead look honestly at ourselves and how we contribute to the problem?
What if we’re on the wrong side?
Again, Karoline Lewis said that
“Jesus’ message this week is not fuel for discord but asks us to enter into the roots of discord itself and call it out for what it is. Jesus’ naming of our human tendency toward disagreement is not to suggest that we identify it as a value of Christian interaction and discourse, but to remind us that the creating of the community of Christ relies on our commitment to listening. Jesus’ naming of our instinct toward self-preservation over mutuality and reciprocity is not to shame us but to call us toward a different vision of what the world can be — a world that is truly committed to bringing about the Kingdom of God here and now.
What if we’re fighting and dividing over the wrong things?
OR – what if God is working in and through both sides?
Sometimes, the truth hurts.
But still, here we are.
Gathered here today.
Coming together despite our divisions.
Confessing together, receiving grace together, singing together.
Together we are about to welcome Jack into this family of God, into this new life in Christ which we all share.
As we will say together in a few minutes – workers with us in the Kingdom of God.
New life in Christ begins here – but it doesn’t end here.
We are called to be workers with Christ and each other to help usher in the Kingdom of God.
As Lutheran Pastor Erick Thompson said “What ends in baptism is the consequence for our failure to live out those vocations. So, while joy is a fundamental emotion for baptism, it is joy because of the grace that we have been given, not because we will never experience pain again.
Life is hard.
Baptism doesn’t remove the ways that this world is broken.
But it does change us.
And with or without us God continues to break into this divided world and challenge the ways things are done and how we see each other.
At the end of this Gospel passage today – Jesus says:
You feel the wind blow from the south and say “it’s going to be hot”
You see clouds in the west and say “rain is coming”
“You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and sky but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?”
He basically says – you can accurately predict the weather by looking at the sky but you can’t look around at the world and see if for what it is?
Jesus says it’s obvious.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t think it’s always that obvious.
The Kingdom of God is always breaking in – everywhere, every time, always.
And yes sometimes it disrupts and divides.
But sometimes it does amazing things – and when we only focus on the ways we should be afraid, the ways we are different, the ways we are broken, we miss out on the ways the Kingdom of God is at work healing, restoring, redeeming, and renewing.
And those are everywhere too.
By now you’ve probably all heard about the Refugee Swimmer Yusra Mardini, who swam for three hours in the Aegean Sea while pulling a boat of Refugees to shore. It’s an incredible story but to me, the Kingdom of God story in it is that the whole time she was swimming, she was making faces at the face of a little 6 year old boy in the boat, so that he wouldn’t be afraid.
If that’s not the Kingdom of God breaking in, I don’t know what is.
Before we continue on in the service, we’re going to take a few moments, and write down our moments, like my accident story, where we’ve seen the Kingdom of God breaking in.
They don’t have to be flashy or spectacular or miraculous.
But they need to be shared.